What About Those Marks?

128. Has the Church any marks by which it may be known?

The Church has four marks by which it may be known: it is One; it is Holy; it is Catholic; it is Apostolic

What is meant by the “marks” of the Church?

By the marks of the Church is meant those external signs by which Christ’s true Church may be distinguished for all so-called churches.

Nicene Creed: I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. -- Thomas J. O’Brien, Advanced Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice, The Oink Company (1929) original copyright by D.H. McBride & Co. (1902), p. 68; has Nihil Obstat & Imprimitur

The above teaching was based upon J.L. Spalding’s A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, © 1885, which was prepared and enjoined by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore. In his introduction, O’Brien explains that the chief purpose in compiling his Advanced Catechism was “to supply a need felt in the higher grades of our Catholic schools.” He went on to explain that:

In a word, the aim of the Advanced Catechism is to show that the feasts, devotions, and practices of the Church, together with the duties of Christian life, are the logical outgrowth of the revealed truths of Faith and Morals. -- Ibid.., p. vi

There can be no doubt that O’Brien’s Catechism, intended for use in Catholic schools, constitutes a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Those who demand more lofty sources are referred to The Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, produced in the 3rd session of the First Vatican Council (April 24, 1870), where they might read:

…[T]he Church by itself, because of its marvelous propagation, its exceptional holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in all good works; because of its catholic unity and invincible stability, is a very great and perpetual motive of credibility, and an incontestable witness of its own divine mission. -- Denzinger 1794

The first-mentioned Mark of the Church is that it is One. O’Brien’s catechism explains why this is so, at least in Rome’s view:

129. How is the Church one?

The Church is one because all its members agree in one faith, are all in one communion, and are all under one head.

How many churches did Christ found?

Christ founded only one Church, as He taught only one faith, established it on only one foundation, and clearly said, “There shall be one Fold and one Shepherd.” John 10:16

One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all. Eph. 4:5 -- O’Brien, Op. cit., pp. 68, 69

I doubt any Christian would dispute this teaching, were it understood to be referring to the true Church and not the Roman Catholic cult. Let us examine the proof texts Father O’Brien offers. The full text of the first citation reads thusly in the KJV:

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. -- John 10:16

What is going on here? Christ is speaking to Jews, telling them that the new Church He is going to establish will not be made up solely of Jews but will also include Gentiles. He is telling some Pharisees who were with Him that some Gentiles would respond to His voice and would become part of the Church (cf. Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:11-22). The fold He is talking of is the Church He established on Pentecost, not the fantasy church Rome likes to claim was established when Christ addressed Peter as “Pebble” or “Little Stone.” The one Shepherd is Christ, not Peter, not John XXIII, not Not Benedict XVI.

In an interesting happenstance, O’Brien misstates his source of the second citation from Scripture. The words he quotes are taken not from a single verse, but from two verses. A small thing, perhaps, but considering the high purpose stated for his catechism, it gives reason to question the accuracy of other teachings in that little book. In the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible the passage in context reads:

4 One body and one Spirit: as you are called in one hope of your calling.
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.
7 But to every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ.
-- Ephesians 4:4-7

That the true Church, the Body of Christ, is one is not to be denied. The Apostle Paul made that clear when he wrote:

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. -- 1 Corinthians 12:13, KJV

The question is not whether the Church into which all true believers are welded is unified but, rather, whether the Roman Catholic Church is that church - is the Bride of Christ. Rome says that she is, but she cannot present indisputable evidence to support that claim. Instead, she points to a position built upon eisegesis of Matthew 16:19 or to the utterings of selected church fathers to support her self-defined status as the true Church. In other words, Rome is the one Church because Rome says she is. That is tantamount to me claiming to be the King of Romania because I say that I am.

130. How is the Church holy?

The Church is Holy because its founder, Jesus Christ, is holy; because it teaches a holy doctrine; invites all to a holy life; and because of the eminent holiness of so many thousands of its children.

Which are the chief means of holiness in the Church?

The chief means of holiness in the Church are the Mass, the Sacraments, the Commandments, and the approved Feasts, Ceremonies, and Devotions…

Why, then, are not all members of the Church holy?

All the members of the Church are not holy, because some freely live contrary to the truths, laws, and practices of the Church, as Christ foresaw… -- O’Brien, Op. cit., p. 69

I find it interesting that this catechism teaches that the Roman Catholic Church is made holy chiefly by means of her rituals, which are manmade and nowhere specified in the Scriptures. The reference to Commandments in the above selection likely refers to the Commandments (Precepts) of the Church and not to the Decalogue.

Is the Roman Catholic Church holy? According to its Magisterium it is. Of course, one would hardly expect Rome’s Teaching Authority to admit that it is anything other than holy. History points to many testimonials to the unholiness of RCC popes, bishops, priests and other religious. When these are recalled, the Catholic apologist likely will be quick to claim that the sins of her priests cannot be laid at the feet of the entity known as the Roman Catholic Church, which is protected from sin and error by the Holy Spirit. These same apologists cannot, however, prove this dichotomy of accountability from the same Scriptures they distort to “prove” their cult is the true Church.

Is the Roman Catholic Church truly something apart from its membership? On more than one occasion, the Extraordinary Magisterium has described the Church as a society. Leo XIII, for example, wrote:

…Jesus Christ called upon all mortals, as many as were, and as many as were to be, to follow Him as their leader, and likewise their Savior, not only separately one by one, but also associated and united alike in fact and in mind; one in faith, end, and the means proper to that end, and subject to one and the same power…Therefore, the Church is a society divine in origin, supernatural in its end, and in the means which bring us closest to that end; but inasmuch as it unites with men, it is a human community. --Leo XIII, Satis cognitum, Encyclical promulgated June 29, 1896; Denzinger 1959) [My emphasis]

For those who would argue that the above citation is a unique reference to the Roman Catholic Church as a human community, I offer a few more references:

* Eugenius IV, A Decree in Behalf of the Jacobites, Bull Cantata Domino, Council of Florence February 4, 1441 (Denzinger 703ff.)

* Gregory XVI, Condemnation of the Works of George Hermes, from the Brief Dum acerbissimas September 26, 1835 (Denzinger 1618)

* Pius IX, Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ, Session IV, 1st Vatican Council, July 18, 1870 (Denzinger 1821ff)

* Pius X, The Errors of Modernists, on the Church, Revelation, Christ, the Sacraments, from the Decree of the Holy Office, Lamentabili, July 3, 1907 (Denzinger 2052ff.)

Other councils and popes have gone to great lengths to establish, infallibly of course, that clergy are special and privileged members of this ecclesiastical society and that the pope is the most privileged of all. Yet, does it not seem logical that all the members of the human society Rome claims was established by Christ must in some way share in accountability for those things done in the name of that society? Should not the head of that society, elected by senior members of the privileged class within that society, be held accountable for his actions? Should not the members of the ruling class within that society be called to account for their misdeeds? Are not the common members of that society required to atone for their wrongful acts?

Think it through. If the society called the Roman Catholic Church, whether established by Christ as she teaches or not, is made up of human beings, then it stands to reason that when the human leadership not only does wrong but actually encourages or condones wrongdoing, then that society is something less than holy.

In sum, the Roman Catholic Church is a manmade and quite worldly religious body, the head of which is a pretender to a divine role nowhere mentioned in God’s holy Scriptures. The true Church, in contrast, is a spiritual body comprised of all true believers, established by Christ Himself, Who is its Head.

131. How is the Church Catholic or universal?

The Church is Catholic or universal because it subsists in all ages, teaches all nations, and maintains all truth.

What does the word “Catholic” mean?

The word “Catholic” means universal, i.e., extending to all truths, times and places.

Why must Christ’s Church be Catholic?

Christ’s Church must be Catholic because He came to save all men of every age and clime. Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8. -- O’Brien, Op. cit., pp. 69,70

Christ’s Church, the true Church, indeed is catholic [lower case] in that it reaches out to all men wherever they may be found. However, the passages cited by O’Brien do nothing to support the fantasy that the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church, as a quick read of the passages will clearly demonstrate.

14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
-- Mark 16:14-15

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.--Acts 1:8

Is the Roman cult catholic? Of course it is, but not in the way it claims. In that the RCC is to be found just about anywhere one might wish to go, it is in that sense catholic [lower case], at least according to one dictionary’s definitions of that adjective.

1. Of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive:…
2. Including or concerning all humankind; universal: …
-- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1992 Houghton Mifflin Co. Electronic version lic'd from and portions © 1994 InfoSoft Int'l, Inc.

Neither of those definitions supports the fantasy that the Roman cult is the one true church established by Christ. On the other hand, they certainly do support the reality that the RCC is spread across the globe and seeks to include all mankind within her soul-crushing embrace.

132. How is the Church Apostolic?

The Church is Apostolic because it was founded by Christ on His Apostles, and is governed by their lawful successors, and because it has never ceased, and never will cease, to teach their doctrine.

In what ways, then, must the Church be Apostolic?

The Church must be Apostolic in its doctrines, its priesthood, and its mission. John 20:21; Gal. 1:8.

“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. “ Eph. 2:20 -- O’Brien, Op. cit., p. 70)

Don’t you have to wonder how the RCC can be apostolic by virtue of its priesthood, given that there is no account in Scriptures where one learns that the Apostles established a priesthood? How can the RCC consider itself apostolic when so many of its dogmas, such as the Immaculate Conception, transubstantiation, Christ as a cookie, etc., are nowhere to be found in the writings of the Apostles? It’s mission? What is the mission of the Roman Catholic Church? Regardless of what it may publicly declare, it would appear that the RCC’s true mission is to bring all the world into submission to its reigning monarch, the pope.

That passage cited by O’Brien does nothing to support the fantasy that the Roman cult is apostolic. Quite the contrary, in fact, for in as much as RCC doctrine, dogmas and practice often run counter to the holy Scriptures, many of which were penned by Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let us look at the passage again, with a bit of context added:

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
-- Ephesians 2:19-20

In these words, the Apostle is explaining to the members of the church at Ephesus that the Kingdom of God is comprised of all people from all time who have trusted or will trust in Him. In the Kingdom, there are no strangers, foreigners, or second-class citizens. Redeemed sinners not only become heavenly citizens but actually become members of God’s own family. The Father bestows on the believers the same infinite love He gives His Son.

He is telling us that, important as were the Apostles and prophets, it was not them personally, but the divine revelation they taught as they authoritatively spoke the word of God to the church before the completion of the New Testament that provided the foundation.

Does the Roman Catholic Church live up to its claims concerning the marks? I don’t think so.

I entreat all those still caught up in the lies that issue from Rome to make an effort to validate the Magisterium’s teachings against the Scriptures. When you discover that something Rome requires you to assent to as a matter of faith, on pain of excommunication, runs contrary to God’s revealed Word, then I urge you to re-consider your allegiance to a false religious system and turn instead to God.

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.-- Isaiah 45:22

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